Lent is long. Really long; it’s longer than most of the things we’re used to today. It can be hard to follow through on everything you said you would do during Lent (I have definitely been struggling). So you’ve (also) gone through this Lent thing, and you haven’t exactly nailed it. There is still hope for you (and me)! Now is a great time to reevaluate where we are so we can make a final push down the home stretch. If you want to be ready for Holy Week: it’s rally time! But this time, we’re going to rally right!
When I was younger, I used to give up a few different things for Lent:
- Pop (or soda, for all you non-Minnesotans)
-Which wasn’t anything because I was in swimming and I didn’t allow myself to drink it anyway.
- Ice cream
-This was actually hard for me because I LOVE ice cream! I could eat it forever.
As a young lad, I didn’t really understand why we gave stuff up. I just did it because my parents and religious education teachers told me to. I thought about it a bit more recently, and I realized why we give things up for Lent.
I. Denial & Suffering
The first reason that we sacrifice our guilty pleasures during Lent is one that I think most people are familiar with: we want to deny ourselves. And this kind of sucks, because we obviously want the stuff that we enjoy! A lot of people may see this denial as simply suffering, which is what it can be. But if we offer up our suffering with Christ’s suffering on the cross, it transforms that suffering into a prayer! This denial is also supposed to lead to more self-control, and that self-control leads to freedom; freedom to choose love and to choose God.
II. Remove Barriers
The second reason we give up things for Lent is to take out those things in our lives that are keeping us away from God. My swim coach used to always say,
“It’s never a good time to practice a bad habit.” –Gordy Rodby
This is the biggest thing that I’ve realized about Lent that has completely changed my attitude towards it.
I noticed that I was addicted to watching YouTube videos every day in my life. I would get back from class, and even though I knew that I had homework that I needed to do, I would say to myself, “I’ll just take a break from working my brain by watching some mindless videos to relax before I get back to work for the day!” I would then end up watching videos for hours, procrastinating. Then I couldn’t do as many activities at night because I was banging my head on my homework!
III. Build Ladders
The third reason we give things up is to fill that space with something that will bring us closer to Christ. This can lead to incredible growth! You have the opportunity to give up the hardest thing that is keeping you away from Jesus during this season and offer up that suffering, but what use would that denial and suffering be if you just filled that space with another bad habit? We need to develop habits that will lead us to Christ, and this will completely change our lives!
In my case, I’ve decided to try to turn all of that time spent on YouTube into time spent in prayer. So far, it’s not a one-to-one ratio exchange (If it was, I would be in the chapel for hours on end – which is awesome if you are able to do that!) Instead, I am taking care of all of my homework in the morning. This leaves me free to pray after my classes, to be attentive to my friends, to help out around the Newman house, to get closer to Christ through scripture, and to write this!
Alright, let’s recap. We give up things for Lent for a number of reasons:
- To deny ourselves pleasures, which leads to suffering to be offered up and development of self-control, which leads to freedom to choose God
- To remove bad habits that are holding us back from God and the person that we’re supposed to be
- To fill that space with things that bring us closer to Christ
If these are the reasons for giving things up during Lent, then shouldn’t we give them up not only for Lent, but forever? If it’s truly a bad habit that is getting in between you and a deeper, more personal relationship with God, then shouldn’t we replace it with a good habit that fosters that relationship every day?
I’m not saying that we should all make radical changes (though you definitely could). I am saying that you should change something that you can actually do. Do you need to pray more with the Rosary or scripture? Do you need to stop procrastinating? Do you need to go to confession more? Do you need to be more attentive to those that are in your life?
Are you struggling to determine what you need to give up and what you should replace it with? Are you unsure if what you’ve given up is the right thing? Here are two questions that should help, especially if you bring them with you to prayer:
- What is God calling me from?
- What is God calling me to?
Once you do figure out what those things are, take practical steps to make those changes!
- Set alarms
- Write in planners
- Get accountability partners
- Physically move things if necessary
– anything to make sure that you actually do what you want. Good intentions don’t change lives; efforts change lives!
So it’s Holy Week is around the corner, and you haven’t done anything yet?
Don’t worry! God is glorified by our effort, not by our success! We want to be prepared for the coming of our Lord at Easter, so you still have time! And even if it’s past Easter when you’re reading this, just remember- it’s never a good time to practice a bad habit.
I’ll be praying for you during this season!